Who’s In It: The voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Robbie Coltrane Ciaran Hinds, Frances Conroy, Frank Langella, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Jenkins
The Basics: A brave little mouse living in a king’s castle is banished from the mouse world for being different, then learns to be a hero. Or, in the language of those of you whose patience has been ground into dust over this kind of thing, this movie features the same essential plot as every single animated feature about talking animals produced in the past decade or so.
What’s The Deal: Now that the bad news is out of the way, I can tell you what’s nice about it. Compared to most of the other Madagascarish CGI cartoons that cover similar thematic ground, this one won’t make you want to gnaw off your own limbs to escape its cold steel grip. It’s not manic or sarcastic or self-consciously aiming for coolness points. With the exception of a few detours into frightening action (don't bring the littlest ones if they're skittish about that stuff) it’s much more gentle and literate than most movies aimed at kids dare to be anymore. It treats its audience almost as if it had actually read the book on which it’s based. You will maybe even feel sincere empathy and identification with this digital rodent.
Easy On The Eyes: They took the smart path by rejecting the eye-popping, generic, hyper-color that seems to be the go-to design these days and instead went in an entirely different direction, mimicking the muted style of Old World paintings. Kids won’t get it, obviously, since most of them aren’t up on their Jan van Eyck. But adults will at least think, “Oh this looks like stuff I saw in that museum that one time in high school.”
Who Should Get Some Kind Of Recognition For His Voice Work This Year: Dustin Hoffman goes two for two by stealing scenes away from Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda and now (intentionally? Un?) referencing his own Midnight Cowboy Ratso character here. Again, not the kind of thing the kids are going to get. Unless your kid’s seen Midnight Cowboy. Which would kind of make you an irresponsible parent. But then again, if you took them to Ice Age 2 you already are one anyway.
One Gripe: I know that the director originally attached to this, amazing Triplets of Belleville creator Sylvain Chomet, left the project early. Why, I don’t know. But how awesome would it have been if he hadn’t?